Training your calves at home is challenging. Whether you want extra volume outside the gym to specialize in calf muscle development. Or you're stuck at home and need to train. I've got the best calf exercises at home with no equipment required!
The best calf exercises at home with no equipment are seated and standing calf raises to effectively target the gastrocnemius and soleus muscles.
But there are many technical nuances with the seated and standing calf raises when you perform them at home without weights. Especially if your goal is to get bigger calves, we must understand some basic calf anatomy before giving you the best calf exercises at home.
Calf Muscle Anatomy
The calves consist of two different muscles: the gastrocnemius and the soleus. The gastrocnemius is the diamond-looking muscle that gives the full shape of the calf. The soleus sits slightly deeper than the gastrocnemius and lower toward the heel.
Both muscles attach to the Achilles tendon, making them essential ankle plantar flexors. However, the gastrocnemius also crosses the knee, making it a biarticular muscle. It helps the hamstrings with knee flexion as well as moving the ankle.
Because of these differences, targeting each calf muscle takes a slightly different approach. Luckily, there aren't too many exercises that work the calves effectively, so even though you're at home, you can hammer your calves.
Before going into the 9 best calf exercises at home without equipment, there are three essential technical elements to note. First, elevate your feet where possible so you can get a full range of motion.
If you do calf raises from the floor, you are undercooking your calf training. It’s like doing partial squats for leg development. It won’t get you very far. Secondly, you must hold the stretch at the bottom.
The Achilles tendon is the largest tendon in the body and acts like a spring . When you bounce, most of the force generated is from elastic energy. Not muscular force production. This means you're not stressing the calf muscles as much as possible.
Finally, foot position can alter which part of the calf is emphasized. For example, pointing the feet out targets the inner gastrocnemius, and pointing the feet in targets the outer gastrocnemius .
Pointing the feet straight similarly develops in the inner and outer gastrocnemius, so use varying foot positions when performing calf raises .
9 Best Calf Exercises At Home
Standing Calf Raise
The standing calf raise is a staple calf exercise in all training programs. But why standing vs. seated? You can target the large gastrocnemius muscle as the diamond-shaped calf muscle is in a disadvantageous position when the knee is flexed .
So, sitting means you’re not maximizing the contribution from the gastrocnemius. Here's how to do the standing calf raise:
Single Leg Standing Calf Raise
If you want to level up the standing calf raise, do it one leg at a time. Everything remains the same, except you'll be standing on one leg. How do you know which arm you should use to support yourself? I use the opposite arm.
Support yourself with the right arm if you are calf-raising with the left leg. Why? Because as you get better and start to load the exercise, you want to hold a dumbbell on the same side as your working leg. Here’s how to do it:
2 Up, 1 Down Standing Calf Raise
If you struggle to single leg calf raise or can only get a handful of reps, then the 2 up 1 down is for you. Be aware, though. Your calves will be excruciatingly sore the next day after the first time you do them! Here's how:
Seated Calf Raise
To maximize calf development, you must perform seated, and standing calf raises. As mentioned, the seated position reduces the contribution from the gastrocnemius, allowing you to target the soleus muscle. Here’s how to do it:
Single Leg Seated Calf Raise
Doing one leg at a time can allow you to add more resistance since you can push with both hands on the same leg. Here’s how to single leg seated calf raise with no equipment:
Donkey Calf Raise
Donkey calf raises were made famous by Arnold Schwarzenegger, having girls sit on his lower back while calf raising. If you have nowhere to elevate your feet for the calf stretch, the donkey calf raise can be an option on the floor as you can lean forward.
Leaning forward will change your shin angle, giving you a more considerable calf stretch and a greater range of motion. Here's how to do it without a ledge to elevate your feet at home:
Seated Band Calf Raise
This exercise requires equipment, but it is cheap and versatile. You will need a resistance band or TheraBand. TheraBands are typically too light as they are used for rehab purposes, and resistance bands are looped, so you don't need to hold them. Here's how to do it:
Tip Toe Walking
Tip-toe walking isn't the most effective calf-building exercise, but if you're stuck at home, you can implement it throughout your day. The goal is to accumulate a lot of volume in a peak contraction throughout the day.
So, when you walk to the kitchen to get food, walk on the balls of your feet. Or to the bathroom. This can dramatically increase your calf training volume.
Jumping Rope (Pogos)
I mentioned earlier you should pause each rep to remove the elastic contribution from the Achilles tendon. However, jumping rope or performing pogos (jump rope without the rope) provides exercise variation from boring, monotonous calf training.
Further, improving this elastic ability can help you become more athletic. Here’s how to do it:
Best Calf Workout At Home Without Equipment
3 x 25
B1) Standing Calf Raise
4 x 10-20
C1) 2-Up 1 Down Calf Raise
2 x 10
D1) Seated Calf Raise
4 x 10-20
Training your calves at home is no easy feat. Calf workouts are already limiting at the gym when you have machines. Now at home with no equipment, you need to be creative. Give these calf exercises a go at home next time you want a workout!
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